The National Assembly House Committees on Treatise, Protocol, Agreements and Petroleum Resources (Upstream) has slammed a two weeks’ ultimatum on ExxonMobil, to review the existing but abandoned Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Host Communities of Akwa Ibom State.
The stipulation came on Thursday, after a petition from the Member representing Eket/Esit Eket/ Ibeno/ONNA Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Patrick Ifon, on the lackadaisical approach to development and neglect of the company’s Corporate social responsibilities (CSR) and other benefits in the Host Communities received attention for a public hearing by the leadership of the National Assembly.
The public hearing with theme “HOLISTIC REVIEW OF ALL AGREEMENTS AND MEMORANDA OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN OIL COMPANIES IN NIGERIA AND HOST COMMUNITIES” is targeted at finding a lasting peace to forestall any build-up of disaffection, restiveness and tension in the Oil bearing Communities of Nigeria.
Speaking in the Hearing, Ossai Ossai, Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) said that finding lasting solutions to the Host Communities/ Oil Companies faceoff is a necessity that must be handled with all amount of sincerity and seriousness.
Ossai narrated that as someone who hails from an Oil Producing Community, he understands that most Oil Firms in Nigeria have abandoned Host Communities right and privileges, while others respects and uphold understanding reached with their Host Communities.
The Committee Chairman added that bigger Operators in this regards do claim that they have signed a pact with the State Government, thereby leaving the Host Communities at the mercies of the State Government which negates international best practices.
He maintained that the Host Communities are the direct beneficiaries of the negative impact of Oil exploration in every state and as such, should be given utmost priority of development and appraisals before the State Government in-line with the Local Content Policies which addresses Host Communities participation.
“Host Communities are not State Government they are the real owners of the operation and as such, should be considered as the most vulnerable when talking about development”
“Because of exploration activities, indigenes of these Communities lack adequate drinking water, their mainstay occupation which predominately was fishing is in a cul-de-sac, it however poses the need for unending Corporate Social Responsibilities, community development and engagement if restiveness in the areas will come to an end”- He added.
In his submission, the Member representing Eket/Esit Eket/ Ibeno/ ONNA Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Patrick Ifon, while narrating the ordeal of the Host Communities, stated that ExxonMobil has flagrantly abuse the privileges accorded them by the Host Communities.
Ifon said the Company has enjoyed a robust working relationship with the Host Communities, but has neglected its Social Responsibilities that is supposed to bring about total development in the area and as well the engagement of indigenes in their operations.
He maintained that rather than the Host Communities to progress with ExxonMobil, they are retrogressing while the Company progresses, which speaks volume of the total abandonment of the Host Communities by the Company.
He further stressed that whatsoever agreement the Company has with the State Government doesn’t in anyway define the stance of the Host Communities, meaning the position of the Host Communities has not been clearly stated and protected, urging the committee to address the anomalies for the sake of the people he represents.
Responding to the submissions, the representative of ExxonMobil, Adedoyin (Doyin) Adelabu, General Manager, Business and Government Relations in her defense stressed that ExxonMobil has an existing MOU that is implemented in the Host Communities and State at large.
She noted that the Company has initiated a number of projects in the Host Communities as their Corporate Social Responsibilities and still doing more for the benefit of the people in the area but however, she will communicate the position and directive of the National Assembly Committee to the management of ExxonMobil.
Mr. Iniubong O.Andrew-Essien, Hon. Dan Abia, Alhaji Emen Edoho, Mr. Samuel Ekpeyong,Barr Fan, being delegates from the Host Communities thanked the Committee Chairman and the entire National Assembly members for gearing effort towards changing the narrative of the Host Communities.
The Committee unanimously agreed that ExxonMobil should liaise with the Host Communities to review the 1998 MOU, which by all indication is supposed to be reviewed semi-annually to ascertain the progress and compliance in the implementation of the provisions, and annually for an holistic review if need arises respectively as enshrined in article 11 sub- paragraph 2 & 3 and report back to the Committee for onward transmission to the House of Representatives.
By Edet Edet